Monday, November 24, 2014


Princess, by Joe Richards
As some may have noticed, I have changed Desiree's name to Adagio.

Adagio is Italian and is most often seen as a musical dynamic instructing the musician to play "slowly, at ease."

At 17,000 pounds, I am under no illusions that Adagio is a fast sailor, but the iconic image of Joe Richards's Princess has always conveyed the feeling of pleasant ease, the "simply messing about in boats" of which Ratty was so fond.

"Adagio" is also used in ballet and refers to "slow and refined movements as a single phrase, in a fluid manner - each step linking seamlessly to the next."  In fact, the Adagio is often the opening section of the Grand pas de deux where the ballerina performs slow movements with her partner. And so, it fits what I hope is to be.

This image reminds me of years ago when I owned the catboat, Janou - my first gaff-rigged boat. An old gaffer told me then, "sail her slack. You can't crank her in tight like you do those Marconi rigs." Instinctively, I knew just what he meant. It had that feel of Adagio to me - . sailing her "slack" on a warm summer day with a lazy breeze on the quarter . . . .

Now, I've sailed enough to know that very few days of our preciously short summers are the lazy, at ease days I describe. My experience is that you're either becalmed or in a tempest that will blow your ears clear overboard. And any gaffer that gets caught with 550 square feet of mainsail flying when the wind pipes up is likely to be singing Santa Merda! (Allegro).

But still, sometimes the name is not the reality, it is the ideal.  And so it is with Adagio.

Simply Messing About in Boats

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Varnish Varnish Varnish

Bacon and Eggs, Shoes and Socks, Sick and Tired, Wooden Boats and Varnish.  Much maligned for maintenance, but always appreciated - on someone else's boat.

Our obsession with varnish is simple: It looks so good.  Never mind it is impractical; never mind that it is fragile; never mind it doesn't protect the wood as well as paint and completely ignore the fact it requires slavish attention to maintenance. The fact is, it is beautiful. Period. Full Stop.

I admit it. I like it. For me, the look is worthy of the time to maintain. Adagio's builder thought so too as he gave her a generous share of it - above and below deck. Teak rail caps, cabin top handles, hatches, blocks, drawers, sampson post, doors and trim and all the spars are finished bright.

Main Hatch with Cetol Nat'l Teak
However, I'm not completely insane - at least not in this regard (I did, after all, buy a wooden boat). I have found that Cetol makes an excellent two-part product, "Cetol Natural Teak" that looks  almost as good as varnish (so close that most people can't tell the difference) and stands up to the elements far better than varnish. After three coats of the product you can top it off with a Cetol Natural Teak Gloss, if you are looking for the gloss of varnish. This top coat will give you additional (and stronger) UV protection than most varnishes and you do not have to sand in
Skylight Hatch
between coats making the overall job quicker.  Last, I have found it to be more forgiving than varnish - keeping you from being "chained to the oars" of your varnish. A maintenance coat of the gloss once a year (or even once every two) keeps it looking good.

Down below, Adagio  will get real varnish as it is away from the elements - or at least it better be.


For the spars, I am trying something new (at least to me). Originally, these spars were finished bright with varnish. That's just not going to happen on my watch. However, I like the idea of a clear finish as it makes it easier to see what's going on with the wood.

A boatwright at the yard suggested LeTonkinois (pronounced La'tonk'in'wah). It is an organic "varnish" made from tung oil and linseed oil and God only knows what else, but it goes on like oil and will build up to a varnish-like finish. Best of all, it is not brittle like varnish, it moves with the wood and touch ups do not require building up the touched up section - it will blend in with the rest of the spar. There is no sanding between coats and it is unaffected by humidity.  Again, once you've laid down six coats, a maintenance coat once a year should be all that's needed.

Old dirty varnish on Boom and Gaff
3 Coats of LeTonkinois
The literature on this product also notes that it is not slippery when wet.


So, I have my own test lab going on here:For reasons I'll not bore you with, the bowsprit and the staysail club are varnished (Epiphanes); the mast, gaff, boom and sampson post are finished with LeTonkinois and the deck teak is done in Cetol Natural Teak.

We will see how each of these perform over time and report back, but for now they are ready for the elements.

Trevethen, Jim, Wooden Boat Renovation, International Marine, Camden ME,1993

Thursday, October 9, 2014

1904 Dictator model

Muscongus Bay Sloop - Roger Duncan
The Friendship Sloop began as a fishing sloop in the very late 1800's and into the new century before being replaced by the advent of power. In a story reminiscent of today, Maine fishermen found that, to keep their catch volume up, they were moving farther and farther from shore and their open dories were no longer up to the task. The need for a boat that could go farther offshore, provide a stable platform and a small cuddy gave way to the Muscongus Bay sloop and, shortly thereafter, a larger version which became the Friendship.

Friendship Sloop
One unique characteristic of the Friendships is they had many builders - built by the very men who used them to make their living.  Fishermen would build a sloop in the winter, fish her during the summer, then sell her and build another the next winter. Thus, there is no one set of hard specifications of what a Friendship must have to be a Friendship. According to the Friendship Sloop Society, these sloops varied in length from 21' to 50' with an average between 30' to 40'. That said, there are some commonalities among them. They all had elliptical sterns and a pronounced counter.  This way, nets dropped over the stern did not snag on the quarters or rudder. Additionally, most Friendships had a clipper bow, were gaff rigged and their beam is roughly one third of their length. The mast was equal to the length overall plus one half the draft.

"Success has many Fathers . . . "

While Friendships had many fathers, the names of a few builders loom large.  Of these, William Morse is probably the most commonly cited because of the sheer number of sloops that came off his ways. It is said that the name Friendship Sloop is due largely to the location of Morse's yard in Friendship, Maine.

For our purposes, however, the other prominent name in Friendship design is Robert McClain. In The Classic Boat, the editors of Time-Life state: "some marine historians consider [McClain] the originator of the Friendship Sloop."  One must be wary of what "some" experts say, but what is clear is that it is unclear exactly who is responsible for the design. The truth is, the Friendship was built for function by those that performed that function and refined to reflect the needs of the individual skipper. Ultimately, it's not important if there was (or wasn't) a definite "who." What's important is that there is still intense interest in this design more than 100 years after its introduction because what made it a good work boat, makes it, simply, a good boat.

While people can argue about who originated the design of the Friendship Sloop, there is no argument that Robert McClain designed and built Dictator. McClain was a shipwright who lived on an island in Muscongus Bay with his wife and son. I have heard the island was Bremen Island, but cannot confirm that. In 1904 he built two vessels - one he kept for himself, the second, Dictator, he sold to lobsterman, Stephen Grey. Over the next 20 years she would be sold to various other fishermen, finally winding up with Dr. Alan Chesney, a summer resident of Deer Isle. The Chesneys owned Dictator for the next 46 years.

Jarvis Newman

Dictator probably would have been lost to the Friendship world had it not been for Jarvis Newman. Newman, a builder of fiberglass boats in Southwest Harbor, found Dictator forlorn and neglected in Francis Williams's boatyard in Stonington. The portside garboard was missing and she had a significant hole in her starboard bow. Moreover, her decks and ceilings were rotten. Many of us are guilty of boat lust. It is what makes us buy boats and it is what allows us to sell them (because someone else has it too).  It seems that Newman had it in spades because he bought Dictator for $1,000 (about $5,800 in 2014).

The trip from Williams's boatyard in Stonington to Newman's in Southwest Harbor is the kind of story one expects from the Burt and I crowd and it is well told in Time-Life's The Classic Boat.  Rather than risk damaging the boat by a bumpy and uncertain overland trip, Newman decided to tow her by water. In November. With holes in her (temporary patches were made and canvas fothered under her bows, but still). To hedge his bets Newman added blocks of styrofoam under her cockpit deck to add buoyancy. She arrived. Just. And Newman hauled her out.

At this point, Newman brought on Ralph Stanley who had more experience in wooden craft. For anyone interested in the details of the restoration, I recommend the section about Dictator's restoration in The Classic Boat.

Dictator, circa 1920
However, I think it is fair to say that Jarvis Newman not only saved Dictator, the sloop, but created what we commonly think of today when we think of McClain's 1904 Dictator.

The early pictures of Dictator (of which there are precious few) show an almost flush-decked sloop. One does not see the cabin top with the pronounced arc that is common in the design today. Moreover, the cockpit is separate from the cabin hatchway which was likely more a hold for fish than a cabin.

Part of Newman's restoration was to create a boat suitable for family sailing which included a livable cabin instead of a fishhold.  Additionally, Newman upgraded the materials: Cedar on Oak, Spruce spars, Douglas Fir bowsprit and bronze fittings throughout - including a bronze billethead of an eagle.

Bronze billethead on "Liberty"
From his restoration of Dictator, Newman took her lines and created several fiberglass versions of her. In so doing, he "fixed" the specifications for this model of Friendship such that when one talks of a Friendship Sloop of the 1904 Dictator type, the dimensions and accommodations are well known.

The original Dictator still exists. The Friendship Sloop Society lists her home port as Deer Isle ME and she boasts sail number 2.

Jarvis Newman Dictator model (fiberglass)
Desiree is patterned on this model. In fact, she is a sister ship to Liberty built by Dick Salter and many of her bronze fittings were from Liberty's castings. As has been the case with Friendships from the beginning, Desiree's builder made some minor modifications to suit his use of the vessel. Specifically, Desiree's accomodations down below differ slightly from both Dictator's and Liberty's, but the length overall, her beam, draft and mast height are all standard Dictator. 


1.)  The Classic Boat, Time-Life Books, 1977  pp.79-100
3.)  Friendship Sloop Society
4.)  Richard Stanley and Wooden Boats: From Legacy to Beyond, Laurie Schreiber
5.)  Dorothy Elizabeth, Building a Traditional Wooden Schooner, Roger Duncan
6.)  Friendship Sloops, by Roger Duncan

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reconstructing the Bow

Gammon Knee is under sprit
In an earlier post (Cabin Top Reconstruction), I noted that I had removed the gammon knee. The gammon knee is located right under the bowsprit and is what gives the Friendships the clipper-like bow.

The term "gammon" originally referred to lashings which secured the bowsprit to the stem head. In ships of yore, the lashings were made fast to the stem by means of a shackle (gammon shackle) that was secured to iron plate bolted to the stem (gammon plate). In later derivations, the gammon knee was used to secure these lashings around the bowsprit. The gammon knee is through-bolted to the stem.

On Friendships, the gammon knee is entirely ornamental - supporting nothing but the billet head (aka figurehead) and the trailboards.  The bowsprit on a Friendship is secured by the opposing forces of the fore, bob and whisker stays and the samson post.

Note delamination under chock
Starboard side
The reason for removing the knee was because of (more) delamination of fiberglass. As mentioned earlier, Desiree's cabin and deck were sheathed in fiberglass, but it appears to have been done with polyester resin, which, I've been told, does not create as lasting a bond as epoxy resin. At any rate, it came away from the knight heads under the forward chocks and separated from the deck on the port side. If you click on these photos, you'll see it better. 

Stem & Gammon Knee
It was also obvious that the stemhead had been abused by the elements over the years. As the stemhead is the end of a large oak member, it's end grain was open to the rain, snow and whatever. Thus, moisture moved down the stem creating some rot.   

Fortunately, even though water moved down the stem, it created it's own path out. In the photo to the left, you see what appear to be two cracks in the stem. The left "crack" is where the gammon knee is separating from the stem due to rot in the top of the stem (there is a lag bolt that secures the top of the knee and as the top of the stem rotted, it has given way). 

The crack on the right side of the stem (and lower) is, indeed a crack and seems to have shunted water out of the stem.  This was extremely fortunate as it limited the water damage to the upper section of the stem. This allowed us to scarf in a new section of the stem rather than a whole stem replacement. 

Rot in the knighthead

So, the only thing to do at this point was to start cutting away the delaminated glass back to good glass and see what we've got.  

Here's what we found. Underneath the rail cap on the starboard side, there was a significant seam of rot in the knighthead on the starboard side.   It was clear that it went below deck level and I had visions of finally finding the one thing that would make this a very long and expensive renovation. The real question now was, how far down does it go?

Moisture under top deck layer
Fiberglass peels right off
So, there was nothing else for it but to pull up the fiberglass and the deck underneath (note how the 'glass came up in one nice big sheet. Never use polyester resin is the lesson, I guess). After removing the first layer of decking (there are two layers of plywood), it was obvious there was moisture. 

What amazes me is this boat has been under cover since December of last year and water that seeped in before then is still there! The storal to the morey here is, once moisture gets in, it sits there until it causes rot. 

These two shots show the bow with a section of the deck gone and breasthook removed. The photo on the left shows that the rot on the starboard side only goes down to just below the top of the breasthook. The photo on the right shows the port side which looks pretty good. The through bolt in the picture comes through the stem and secures the breasthhook. 

As a minor note, the gammon knee is affixed to the stem with three screws, a long bolt going through the knee and stem and exiting inside the bow, and a lag bolt on top (starting at the stem and going outward toward the knee). The through bolt caused some concern because you cannot get at it from inside the vessel unless you remove the samson post (not for the faint of heart or weak of will, trust me on that). So, the fact I had to remove some decking was a help as the end of the through bolt is accessible just below the framing in the picture. 

So, we decided to cut the top of the knightheads off just below deck level and extend the breast hook and new decking out to the edge. 

Like So.

To finish it off, I will use another block of wood to act as a backing block to the railcap and the chocks on it.  I will cut back some more of the fiberglass deck, fair the edge and lay down new glass. Fair it, paint it, re do the non-skid areas, etc. 

Back to the Stem

Before we did all that, though, we scarfed in a new piece of the stem. I say "we" because I am indebted to Aaron Snyder, who is a shipwright currently engaged at our yard (although I did pay him, so I can't be that indebted. Anyway, he does good work). He did in 15 hours what it would have easily taken me ten times as long.

Mock up of stem scarf

Finished job
I also make a point about writing that the stem was redone before the deck was replaced. This was important for a number of reasons but only one was paramount. Because the through bolt for the gammon knee goes through the knee and the stem and you cannot reach the nut to secure if from down below, we had to leave the deck off until that operation was complete.

With the bow and the cabin top 95% complete, the only other major structural part of this project is the mast. For that, see my post Critters in the Mast. This leaves me with an extremely long list of cosmetic items, but cosmetic items are not hard, just time consuming. . . .

1.  Encyclopedia of Nautical Terms
2. Nautical Dictionary, by Arthur Young & James Brisbane, Published 1863 Longman, Roberts & Green, London

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Friendship Sloop Burgee


Anyone familiar with Friendship Sloops is familiar with its burgee  However, less familiar is why it is adorned with what appears to be a vine of spade-like leaves - an odd symbol for a fishing sloop.  So, I wanted to know why the burgee sported this particular design, what leaf it was and why that leaf? 

What I found out was interesting: No one knows. 

There is nothing about the origin of the burgee in any of the Society's publications:  It's a Friendship, Enduring Friendships, and the most recent publication Lasting Friendships.

Here's what we do know: The Constitution of the Friendship Sloop Society (FSS) dictates: "The burgee of the Society shall be a pennant with the fly one an one-half times the hoist, consisting of a black leaf design on a white field with a red boarder." (Article VIII).

The Society's annual yearbook for 1967 comes a bit closer to the mark:
The leaf pattern on the pennant is derived from the original trailboards of the Friendship Sloops. So far as we can discover, all the Morse, McClains, Carters and other original builders, and even the present day builders have used this vine design on their trailboards . . . .

Carvings of vines or scrollwork on trailboards make sense. A trailboard is long and thin and lends itself to that sort of design. However, arabesques of vines on trailboards are not new - they predate Friendship Sloops by at least a century.

In his book Figureheads and Ship Carving, Michael Stammers writes,
[From the 1790's] the trailboards . . .took on an important role. It began carrying more carvings from the base of the figurehead to the main parts of the hull. This had the pleasing effect of visually integrating the figurehead with the rest of the hull. The usual motif was some kind of foliage such as laurels as a symbol of victory, oak leaves as a symbol of strength, acanthus and thistle as symbols of life, mortality and punishment or vine leaves with symbols of grapes as symbols of plenty. These leaf forms were frequently carved in Rococo style with C and S shapes, diverging leaves and elongated stems.
It is no secret that the clipper bow of the Friendship was patterned after the Gloucester fishing schooners that patterned their bows after clipper ships, etc. It follows then, that the makers of Friendships were simply adorning their trailboards with a design as had been done for years.


Grape Leaf

Here is where the 1967 FSS yearbook fails us. Regarding the type of leaf/vine it notes:  "[M]uch research has not turned up the reason for the vine. Our delving into the use of this particular pattern has only served to produce a discussion as to whether this is a vine or grape leaf design, but nothing as to the origin."

Olive Leaf
In Roger Duncan's book, Friendship Sloops, he writes: "[E]arly in the [Friendship Sloop] Society's existence, a burgee was designed and distributed among members. It is a white pennant with a red border on which in black is the traditional olive leaf design used on the trail boards of Morse boats." (emphasis added)

Cherry Blossom

Last, in The Classic Boat, the editors at Time-Life chronicled the restoration of Dictator (see earlier post 1904 Dictator Model, 2/28/14). In it, they noted that, "the trailboards were carved by the wife of the builder, Robert McClain, their design an arabesque of red cherries, [which] was his trademark."

So, Olives? Grapes? or Cherries? Which is it?  That answer lies deep in still waters and is likely to remain there. However, the notion that there ever was an answer doesn't bear up when one considers the origin of the sloop and the conventions of the day.

First, with the exception of the Dictator model, this is not a one class design. There never was a defined set of specs for what makes a Friendship a Friendship. If the original builders didn't try to agree on overall dimensions and specs, it strains credibility that they would agree that all Friendships "shall have a vine of grapes (or whatever) adorning their trailboards." Second, these were fishing boats - not a lot of mucking about with ornate scroll work. Build 'em, Splash 'em, Fish 'em, Sell 'em.

It seems more likely that each builder did what they wanted to do - or maybe had their own signature design as Time-Life suggests of McClain.

Trailboard Design - Desiree

What I can write is that the trailboard for Desiree appears to be ivy which, I warily point out, also appears to be the closest match to the burgee . 

And one internet source had this to say about the meaning of ivy:

The Celtic meaning of the ivy deals with connections and friendships because of its propensity to interweave in growth. Ever furrowing and intertwining, the ivy is an example of the twists and turns our friendships take - but also a testimony to the long-lasting connections and bonds we form with our friends that last over the years. 

Hmmmm, "Lasting Friendships."  What a good name for a book.
Buy yours today from

1.  I am indebted to John Wojcik of the FSS for hunting down the references to the origin of the burgee design in the FSS publications. 
2. Lasting Friendships: A Century of Friendship Sloops, TBR Walsh & Ralph Stanley, Friendship Sloop Society (2014)
3. Friendship Sloops, Roger Duncan, International Marine (1985)
4. It's a Friendship, Herald Jones, Friendship Sloop Society (1965)
5. Friendship Sloop Society Annual Yearbook, Friendship Sloop Society (1967)
6. Figureheads and Ship Carvings, Michael Stammers, Naval Institute Press (2005)
7. The Classic Boat, Time-Life (1977)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Critters in the Mast - Plan D

In my last post, I noted that Plans A thru C to remove acorns, fur and other stuff from my critter-condo mast failed. Plan D was the "nuclear option," namely to remove select staves of the mast. This provided access to the detritus as well as gave room to remove the wiring that was threaded up through the middle.

Notwithstanding the critters problem, it was clear that we would have to do this in a couple of spots anyway as the wood and seams in places were compromised by age or rot.

As shown on the plan to the left, the mast is constructed much like a wooden barrel. Trapazoidal sections of Sitka Spruce are glued together along a 37' span (many are scarfed to get the needed length), leaving the middle hollow.

Routing jig

Aaron routing out a stave
In order to give the router a straight edge on a rounded mast, we set up a jig out of scrap plywood. By using straps to secure it to the mast, it made it easy to line the edge of the jig up with a particular seam. To move to another seam, just loosen the straps and roll the mast over on the saw horses and re-align. The straps were made tight by means of a Spanish Windlass. Simple, quick, easy. 

In all, we routed out 4 sections - each about 7 feet long and each from different places around the mast. Only one stave at a time. We wanted to avoid having the mast spring open like a desert bloom after the rainy season and the way to do this was to make sure each section removed was not near any other removed section. 

And then . . . . more critters !


As we were routing out a particularly punky looking section at the top of the mast, we hit a colony of Carpenter Ants. Camponotus Pennsylvanicus. These bastards will chew through wood like green corn goes through the new maid. The nasty little brutes burrow into wood - generally soft woods like pine (or, in this case spruce) or wherever there is rot.  They are the devils own spawn to be sure and will cause you to have to rebuild the whole side of your house if you don't catch them early (trust me on that one).

Anyway, this picture doesn't do it justice; when we first hit the colony, the ants just erupted from the wood like lava. In this section, there was nothing for it but to take out two consecutive staves and we were fortunate that the colony didn't go beyond that.

The Holy Top Mast 

You hate to do it, but the only thing you can do is cut back to good wood and repair from there. I have two 8 foot, 2 x 6 planks of Sitka Spruce from a local lumber yard and we will use those to create scarfs to fill these sections.

Also, there are some seams where the epoxy has left some small openings so those will need to be refilled and coated.

Last, before we close it up tight, I will install two new cables to service the masthead light and other electronics and a new VHF coaxial.

And more important than all of that, before this is laid up for the winter, I will plug up the ends to dissuade members of the animal world (genus: Painus Intheassus) from infesting my mast.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Critters in your Mast

Desiree has four very nice spars. The mast, gaff and boom are all Sitka Spruce.  The bowsprit is Douglas Fir.  The mast is built as a barrel: long staves of spruce around an empty core. Up through the middle, the wires for lights and VHF are threaded.

These spars sat for 15 years in a back yard. While they were on supports and covered, the holes in the top and bottom of the mast were not. You guessed it. Some critter or critters made there home there.

Cracks in upper mast
I first realized it when we put the mast on some sawhorses to begin it's reconditioning. At that point, my biggest concern was some splitting at a seam at the top of the mast and a small, punky area of wood nearby (see photo at right). However, as I rolled the mast over to check other seams, I could hear acorns and stuff rolling around inside. It sounded like the cage the caller uses to mix up the numbers at a bingo game.

So, while the cracks still have my undivided attention, I was curious about how much stuff was inside the mast, and how to get it out.

Andrew performing a mast enema
Andrew Haley runs our boat yard and if there's anything about boats he doesn't know, it ain't worth knowing. Our first solution was to hoist the mast on the boom truck and use gravity to drop the acorns out.

This didn't work.

Plan B was to snake a batten up the hole and that met with more success, but was limited to the length of the batten which was nowhere near the 36 feet of the mast.

Plan C was to use a plumbing snake. Again, some success but length was still a problem.

Acorns, fur, rope and other shhh. . . stuff. 

What was amusing was the amount of stuff that came out: acorns, acorn dust, fur, rope and all kinds of detritus. And it kept coming, and coming, and coming.

When we were done, we had a pile of critter detritus on the ground and still had stuff in the mast.

Why do critters chew wires? really.

Some of the seams need attention too so Plan D is probably to remove sections of a stave (or staves) and rout out any more crap in the mast, I will remove the wires as well. I was going to replace the wires anyway, but there is no question now. For reasons that defy logic, critters like to gnaw on wires (see photo) and these appear to have been the central dish at their thanksgiving day feast.

So, the old lesson learned is to close off any openings when putting boats up for the winter.  Failure to do so may result in small, furry stowaways that will always cause problems - the size of which are inversely proportional to the stowaways themselves.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cabin Top Restoration

Early on, it was clear that the cabin top of Desiree would need to be replaced (see, Up on the House Top and Separation Anxiety February 5th & 23rd). I have already mentioned the process of removing the old housetop, but have not commented much on the trials and tribulations of the actual replacement.  I suppose the reason for this is, it is about as interesting as waxing trees and watching squirrels slip. It is laborious and repetitive. However, if you want a good job, it is worth taking your time through each step. If I have learned anything, it is that while prep work is not sexy, it is what makes or breaks any project.

So, this post is for you if you are in the process of replacing a cabin top - or something similar. If that is you, all I can say is, you need to get out more. Really. Go.

Delamination on Port side cabin
Still with me? Here we go. Once the cabin top was off, other things become obvious. For example, there was some delamination on the sides of the cabin. This was dealt with by grinding away any really bad glass first. Anywhere the glass was solid but not sticking to the cabin sides I filled the gap with epoxy via a syringe. In some places, I drilled holes in the glass to allow a greater reach of the epoxy. Again, a syringe was the thing to get the epoxy in those spots.

A quick note about using syringes. They're great and very useful. However, as you don your latex gloves and fill your syringe with epoxy, Walter Mitty visits and you can't help but feel like the world's foremost surgeon. In fact, I found myself saying to the boat before I injected the epoxy, " OK, you might feel a little stick and some mild discomfort" (C'mon, admit it. You've done it too.)
Revarnished Frames

The other thing that made sense was to refinish the teak frames before replacing the cabin top. This allowed better access to sand more effectively into corners and edges. It also made the brush work easier.

Once that was done, I could focus on the cabin top proper. The process called for three layers of 1/4" okoume in the after section and four layers of 1/8" forward.

Cutting and Fitting, Cutting and Fitting (ad nauseum)

Forward section clamped in place
Painting underside of first layer
As noted, the process is laborious and repetitive. You must cut and fit one layer. Screw it down; Take it up. Paint the underside of the first layer (primer coat and two coats of top coat). Lay it down again. Epoxy over the screw heads. Let it dry. Sand the epoxy fair. Cut and fit a second layer. Screw it down. Take it up. Put a layer of thickened epoxy down. Put the second layer down. Screw it in place - quickly, before the epoxy sets (lesson, use slow cure epoxy). Fill the seams and screw heads with epoxy. Let it dry. Sand it smooth. Cut and fit a third layer. Screw it down . . . you get the idea.

First layer fitted
The nub of it is, it takes awhile. The cutting and fitting process is not straight forward on a boat. Boats are a collection of curves - it is what gives them style. It also means you will seldom ever cut just a straight line and expect it to fit.

Moreover, each layer is secured to the underlying layer by thickened epoxy and screw heads are covered over with the same. Epoxy takes a day to cure well and each layer should be sanded smooth before proceeding to the next layer. So, the whole process takes time.

Third (and final) layer
In the photo to the right, you see the third - and final - layer on with the hatches rough cut out.

One of the trickiest aspect of this part of the project was trimming the edge flush with the cabin sides. The reason for this was twofold. First, I'm a novice at this and I am learning as I go. Second, the arc of the house top makes getting a good measurement a bit awkward especially as the cabin is rounded in the front.

Trimming the Edges

I was able to do a reasonable workman-like job using a two step process. First, using a skill saw, I rough cut the top to within two inches of the sides (I may be a novice, but I can at least accomplish that). However, since the final cut had to be a lot closer, I needed to scribe a very accurate line on the house top that told me where the cabin side ended and air began.

A shipwright in the boatyard, solved the problem for me: create a tool shaped like a "c" clamp, the bottom section of which rides along the cabin sides and top of which scribes a line. The part that makes the letter "c" must be wide enough to accommodate the overhang of the cabin top. Using strapping left over from the frame, I made a tool that looked more like a "G" than a "C" so that the bottom of it had a long, flat guide I could put flush against the cabin side. My pencil went into a hole at the top directly above the edge that would ride along the cabin side. In this way, I had a line that told me exactly where the cabin side stopped.

Edges Trimmed up and Hatches Cut
The final rough trim was done with a jigsaw to within 1/16 of an inch of the top and the final trim was done with a 7" block plane.

Final Edge
The next step was to round the edges of the cabin top. Originally, I thought a router would be thing to use, but that proved to be too complex. The reason for this is, again, the arc of the house top. To get a straight up and down cut, the angle of a router would have to be continuously adjusted as you went. Additionally, any jig would need to be constantly adjustable as the arc changes as you move forward along  the house top.

So, deft use of the orbital sander and a good eye (and some hand sanding) provided a serviceable and pleasing rounded edge.

Final Details

Before I could get to the fiberglassing of the cabin top, there were a couple of other details to deal with. The first was to fair any obvious depressions in the cabin top. Remember, the cabin top is like the hood of your car. As you sit in the cockpit you will be looking at it most of the time. More importantly you will be looking at it at just the right oblique angle such that any depressions in the top will be obvious and they will be a constant reminder of the importance of taking the time to get the prep work right. Anyway, I find that West Systems 407 filler is the best stuff for this as it fills and sands easily.

Wood Stove 
No wood stove
The other detail was to cut a hole to accommodate the chimney for the wood stove. Using the old flu and a plumb bob, I marked the center of the hole I needed and then drilled up from the cabin.  From above I drew a 6" circle around the center hole and cut it out with a jigsaw. After all the time spent getting the top in place, I must admit to a real reluctance in cutting into the top, but the chimney has to go somewhere.


Adding Deck Iron platform
When I removed the cabin top, I'd kept the platform that had been made to fit the deck iron. This platform allows the deck iron and stack to be level on an otherwise curved deck. It is also what determined the diameter of the hole.  Once I cleaned up the edges of the hole, I fastened the deck iron platform to the cabin top with thickened epoxy and several clamps.

Fiberglassing the Deck 

Cutting and fitting the cloth
Fiberglass wetted out with Epoxy
Once all that dried, I was ready to glass the cabin top. Since this is a cabin top and will not get a lot of foot traffic, I chose 6 ounce cloth.

There are many sites and videos outlining this process so I won't go into detail on this stage, but I will point out a couple of things not generally mentioned that made the job easier. First, once all the cloth is laid out, smooth it out with your hands starting in the center and moving your hands to the edges. Take your time and go through several smoothings - you want it to lie as flat as you can get it. Also, leave it out overnight as it will start to take the shape you want on its own. 

Second, when it comes time to apply the epoxy, having someone else mix the pots and hand them to you as needed is a huge help. On a relatively small job like this, you could do it alone, but the pot, your trowel, your gloves and brush all get slipperier than two snakes in a bucket of snot and moving back and forth from your work area to the epoxy containers will make the job less pleasant than it already is.

From here, I will put on at least two more layers of epoxy and follow with a primer coat and top coat(s). The state of the tide out there is that Awlgrip is the topcoat to use for durability, etc. However,  I know of several yachtsmen who opt for a single part polyurethane such as Interlux. Whichever you use, the key is in the prep. Both products will look shoddy if the work underneath is.

If you have followed me this far, you may have noted that Desiree  has received a change of venue. In late June, space became available indoors at our boatyard. This has been a huge boon as progress can move forward regardless of weather with lot more elbow room. In the photo below, you see her in the shed, glass laid out on her cabin top and her spars on saw horses. You will also note, her gammon knee is missing. The bow is a story for another time as is the reconditioning of the spars . . . .  Stay Tuned.